City making changes at shelter to better care for animals

Published 10:55 am Tuesday, September 13, 2016

City officials hope a series of changes at the Vicksburg animal shelter will help alleviate the problems reported by PAWS members who have visited the facility during the past few weeks.

Jeff Richardson, assistant public works director who is over the shelter, told the Board of Mayor and Aldermen at a Monday morning work session shelter employees will be installing a new watering system, providing shade cloth for the kennels in the summer, and an employee will stay at the shelter during business hours.

He said a temporary worker has been hired to fill in for a shelter worker who is presently out, and the equipment for the watering system is expected to be delivered Thursday. The board also discussed relocating and building a new shelter. The city has about $340,000 in phase 2 of the capital improvements budget set aside for a new shelter. A location has not been determined.

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

“We’ve been asking for a new building for 20 years,” Richardson said.

Richardson said he will work with City Attorney Nancy Thomas to develop a waiver so volunteers can work at the shelter, and will hire an additional part-time worker to allow the shelter to remain open until 5:30 p.m. Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday to allow people who want to come adopt an animal to come to the shelter.

The use of volunteers and the extended hours was recommended at Monday afternoon meeting with PAWS members. Employees will also attend training classes on animal control, starting with shelter supervisor Robert May.

The changes are in response to complaints from several PAWS members over conditions at the shelter, including a lack of water and shade for the animals and the overall cleanliness of the building.

The PAWS members at the afternoon meeting appeared to be satisfied for now with the changes, and agreed to find volunteers to work at the shelter.

“That works for me,” said PAWS member Darlene Hughes, who has made several complaints about the shelter, and who offered her services as a volunteer.

“I’m embarrassed (over the complaints),” Mayor George Flaggs said Monday morning, adding the shelter presently has a $245,000 budget, which should be sufficient to keep it in better condition.

“You’re being monitored,” he told Richardson May. “The service is being monitored. The last people you want on you through social media or any media is this group (PAWS). I’m just telling you all. If you really want to get some political heat, this is the group.”

May believed most of the complaints were the result of people coming to the shelter early while employees were cleaning it.

“I think the problems is several times they (PAWS) came down when we were cleaning up and it automatically is going to be nasty when you come down first thing in the morning and we’re just getting everything straightened out,” he said. “Open at 6 and let people come in at 9 a.m.”

When employees arrive at the shelter, he said, they let the dogs out so they can clean and disinfect the shelter and then come back to feed and water the animals. He said employees feed and water the dogs before they leave in the afternoon.

“It looks bad at some times, but they keep it clean. Most everybody who goes down there does not like the building. I think they’re doing the best they can for what we have,” Richardson said.

“We can’t change the building, but we do keep it clean. In the mornings when they come in and clean and the leave to go out on their routes, it’s clean. When they’re coming back in the afternoon, it’s dirty again.”

He said the employee remaining at the shelter will be responsible for keeping it clean and maintained during the day.

Discussing the intake procedure at the shelter, Richardson said all animals going to the shelter are included on spreadsheet.

“We keep track of every dog and cat that comes in,” he said.

“The dogs they’re picking up are strays and have mange and are in bad shape. The healthy dogs are the ones owned by someone. It’s pretty obvious they’re someone’s dog.”

When a sick animal comes in, May said, it is taken to the vet if it doesn’t have an owner. Ownership determined if the dog has a tag, and the dogs are kept for five days.

Some, he said are sent to PAWS for adoption.

May said he makes the decision whether to euthanize.

“Basically, I do is when they leave the shelter (for the vet) I tell them what I need done to them, once they leave the shelter, I call them and tell them what I want done.”

Richardson said the changes being put in place will improve the shelter and its operation.

“We set the short-term solution,” Flaggs said. “Now we need to find something long-term.”

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

email author More by John